Crawfish housing market on the rise

The image of a crawfish "house" or "chimney" is a fairly common site.

The image of a crawfish “house” or “chimney” is a fairly common site.

If you live in Louisiana, you’ve probably seen a crawfish house. A crawfish house is a pile of dried mud erupting from the ground. It resembles a chimney.
For most Cajuns, these crawfish houses represent everything that is good and wholesome about Louisiana.

As Acadian scholar and raconteur Revon Reed suggested in Lache pas la Patate,

“We shouldn’t make the eagle the symbol of American, but the crawfish. The reason is simple: put an eagle on a railroad track and what does the eagle do? When a train comes it raises its wings and flies away. But place l’ecrevisse on the same rail and when the big locomotive is coming, what will he do? The crawfish raises its claws and will not leave his post! Yes, my friends, that is the crawfish.”

Reed’s sentiments weren’t always the case. A lot of folks don’t like crawfish houses on their land, especially the mid-20th century rice farmer. And levee builders didn’t like crawfish either.

Lache Pas La Patate by Revon Reed

Lache Pas La Patate by Revon Reed

“Sometimes the hardy creature was even considered a pest in Louisiana. “Death to Crawfish” was the column header of a 1904 St. Tammany Farmer issue reporting that the levee board was using carbolic acid “with good results to preserve the levees from attack by that clawing and insidious member, the crawfish. The slaughter of crawfish has been progressing quietly….” – from Sam Irwin’s Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean

So, if you find that your front lawn has been taken over by crawfish chimneys, you have two choices: 1) You might want to move if you don’t like standing water on your lawn, or
2) Follow the directions set forth by LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill posted below.

QUESTION: I have crawfish mounds popping up all over my yard. I can remove the mounds of soil, but is there any way to control the crawfish causing them? — Frank

ANSWER: With all the rainy weather, crawfish activity has been high this spring. The crawfish that live in lawns and ditches are a different type of crawfish from the ones we eat. The cylindrical mounds or “chimneys” they make can be a nuisance.

Greg Lutz, aquaculture specialist with the LSU AgCenter, provided the following information on control. The crawfish that create holes and chimneys in landscapes spend their entire lives away from permanent water. In the early spring, they leave their burrows for a few hours after heavy rainfalls and mate.

A few weeks later, the females lay their eggs, and the next heavy rain, they will emerge again and turn their babies loose in large puddles, ditches, etc. The reason there are more inquiries about crawfish burrows in late spring/early summer is because they have just finished their spawning season and are back in the ground cleaning out and enlarging their burrows (or making their very first burrows). There is no pesticide labelled for crawfish control.

That said — how to get rid of them? Putting pesticides down burrows can potentially contaminate groundwater. And it’s illegal. Putting bleach down burrows is often ineffective. One thing that seems to work is lye.

Putting lye in the burrows (about a tablespoon full) usually does the job. And, as it migrates through the surrounding soil, it turns into harmless by-products. When using lye, remember that it is caustic. Be sure to wear hand and eye protection and protective clothing. Lye is used in making homemade soap and may be available where soap-making supplies are sold. It’s readily available online.

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean

Crawfish Report does not advocate exterminating crawfish, far from it. We should eat as many of them as possible. However, if momma gets mad and doesn’t want a bunch of crawfish houses in her garden, what are you gonna do? Sometimes it’s best to keep momma happy.

Buy Sam Irwin’s Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean to learn how the Bayou State invented crawfish.